On our trip to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, we wanted to swim somewhere we would see a lot of fish and possibly other things like sea turtles. We decided to try out Yal-Ku Lagoon, which is not far from Tulum, and just over 1.5 hours south of Cancun.
Yal-Ku is easy to find, and Google Maps directed us there as well. You turn east off the main highway (Carr. Cancun 307), and then continue on Playa Akumal, following the road as it turns north for a few miles.
Right when we turned off the main road and entered the town of Akumal, there were people telling us to stop. This is not the case – they are trying to sell you tours and tell you where to go. We simply continued on the road and both Google maps and road signs guided us to Yal-Ku.
We finally reached the Yal-Ku entrance. The entrance is small – not somewhere you are going to see hoards of giant tour buses.
We had a rental car and turned on the narrow road to find a tiny parking lot. This part of the lagoon seems to be visited by tourists like us, just visiting on our own and not with a hotel or tour group.
Right off the parking lot is the ticket counter.
We bought our tickets and headed down a short path to the lagoon.
There are bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms, which is all very convenient.
You can also rent lockers for your stuff. We brought our own gear but you can rent snorkels, life jackets, etc.
Also note that regular sunscreen is not permitted. The employees at the ticket counter saw us using sunscreen and were very concerned, but we had reef-safe sunscreen. I recommend a long sleeve rash guard (so you can reduce your sunscreen use) and reef-safe sunscreen, both of which you can easily find on Amazon.
You start out in the end of the lagoon, working your way out to the ocean.
The entrance to the lagoon is very nice with large staircases entering the water.
There are quite a few fish right away as you enter the lagoon.
Even from land we could see blue tang, Sargeant Major, trumpet fish, and much more.
My husband headed into the lagoon with the kids. There were times the lagoon was very busy with tour groups (who had entered along other parts of the lagoon), and other times it was quiet. We liked that by going on our own, we could spend however long we wanted there.
My kids (ages 8 and 10) did an impressive job swimming the lagoon. They are both on swim team, so they snorkeled for quite a distance, and without life vests.
The lagoon eventually meets the ocean. The kids swam out to the reef but were too tired to spend a lot of time there. There is a halocline where the fresh water mixes with the salt water, making things blurry.
My husband headed back with the kids, continuing to explore the lagoon.
The kids spent some time warming up and drying out on the deck, and we also had fun watching wildlife too.
There were a bunch of iguanas sunning themselves around the lagoon on rocks (and the occasional backpack!).
The walk from the dock back to the parking lot is just couple minutes, which is very convenient when you’re carrying all your equipment.
We had a great time at Yal-Ku Lagoon. I didn’t even snorkel, and I enjoyed how peaceful it was to sit by the lagoon and watching the fish from above! We were hoping the kids would get to see sea turtles when they made it out to the bay, but they didn’t see any. We were told you can go to the Akumal beach for a good chance of seeing turtles as well, where there is a lot of grass growing in the water. While we would have liked to try again, the kids were exhausted, so we passed.
The kids worked up an appetite, so after drying off and checking if it was ok to leave the car in the lot, we walked to a restaurant a few minutes away.
Visit Yal-Ku Akumal Lagoon & Snorkel on Facebook:
Yal-Ku also shows up as “Yalku Snorkel” on Google Maps.
What to bring:
~ Rash guards, reef-safe sunscreen
~ Snorkel gear if you don’t want to rent
~ Underwater camera
~ Change of clothes
~ Our other Mexico posts ~
Our Mayan Riviera wedding
Aldea Zama condo rentals, Tulum
Avant Car Rental, Cancun
Cenotes Casa Tortuga, Tulum
Coba Ruins, Coba
Fiesta Americana Villas, Cancun
Muyil Ruins, Tulum
Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen
Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, near Coba
Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen and Tips for Visiting XCaret
Yal Ku Lagoon, Akumal
Zazil Kin Beach, Tulum